Keep it clean, keep it sharp; Candid Closet: Susan Loysen, 35, a social worker who lives in Hampden, is a no-frills dresser.


After a cross-country search for "the perfect city," Susan Loysen chose Baltimore as her home, and has become an ardent supporter of its arts scene. Known for her spare, chic style, Loysen softens her neutral pallette with a visual sense of humor. Loysen, 35, will be among the crowd at the Orpheum benefit 5 p.m. Sunday at the Charles Theater. (For more information about the event -- an evening of movies and music that will help the now-closed theater pay its debts -- call 410-732-4614.)

Loysen, a social worker who works with teens in foster care for the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, is also an ardent collector of local art, which she displays in her Hampden rowhouse. But one room is a different kind of gallery; it's devoted to Loysen's wardrobe. She jokes that she needs lots of space, "for all the clothes that wind up on the floor."

What is your philosophy for dressing?

I wear very simple, very clean-cut lines. I don't like frills. I don't like colors. I'm a black, gray and brown dresser. I've always loved those non-colors. And I'll throw in a little pale, muted green. But it's real clean. People laugh at me, my preference is so distinct. If I'm looking at curtains and they have a scallop cut, I say no. It has to be clean and sharp.

How did this idea develop?

I don't know. It could be I have an older sister who is an architect and I share that aesthetic. And it might also be having lived through the '80s, when people wore the stupidest stuff. It's my style in my furniture, my kitchen appliances, everything I have.

It seems that physique also helps to determine style.

I'm tall and thin, and my clothing complements my build. You have your body, what you've been dealt with. You find its strengths, what works for you, and allows you to be comfortable.

Does your work determine what clothing you prefer?

I work with kids so I can't be real frilly. And I work in a realm between casual and dressiness. There are days when I'm out with kids and days when I'm testifying in court.

How do you add spark to your austere look?

I think there's an adolescent inside of me. I like big, clunky shoes, and don't tend to tie my shoelaces. It's like people who deliberately make rugs with a little glitch to make it more interesting. I might throw in something from a thrift shop or a T-shirt that's not that expensive. I like to be sleek, with just a little grit, like Baltimore.

Where do you shop?

Banana Republic is where I do my bulk shopping. And frequently I find cool stuff at flea markets or boutiques, and places I've gone to in Europe and California. I won't buy something because it's cheap or on sale. You get what you pay for, and if you're not paying for decent quality, it's not going to last or fit well and it's not going to look right on you.

Do you mix and match?

It's weird. I might wake up in the morning and think I don't have a thing to wear. Then, I'll just stroll into my closet and an idea comes to me, and I walk out and think, "I hope I can remember this next time." Usually, when my clothes are all at the dry cleaner and I'm down to the bottom, those are the moments when I'm most inspired to come up with something.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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